I like to create little challenges for myself that add fun to my outdoor lifestyle. A few days ago I was with a group of friends and the subject of chili came up. The weather was cool and chili was an appropriate theme. Everyone had their favorite method of making chili and when it was time for me to step in; I said that I have been making smoked chili for decades over a wood fire.
“Chili just isn’t chili unless it’s made from fresh game, never frozen, and has a smoky flavor,” I said.
“Smoked chili sounds great,” a couple of friends said, “and exactly when are we going to get some of this smoky chili?:
“Well,” I said, “I could make some with venison steaks I have in the freezer or, God forbid, I go to the store and buy chili meat, but to make it right, it must be freshly harvested from the wild and never frozen; wild hog is a great chili.”
I could see a few raised eyebrows and one said she had never heard of making wild hog chili; Deer and elk, but pigs?
We had plans to meet at camp in a couple of days and I narrowly went out and told them to look forward to some fresh and camp smoked wild pork chili. I would go out near the house that night and kill a pig and grind some fresh meat with chili. In the back of my mind, I had a plan B which was to defrost some venison steaks and turn them into spicy meat. But I knew there was quite a chance of sitting at a corn feeder in the back of a nearby field just after dark and buying quality wild pork. My surveillance camera had shown a probe of pigs arriving at the site every night just after dark, and a fat sow was always the first pig at the feeder.
About an hour before dark that night, I loaded my little .223 topped off with a thermal scope into the truck, tossed in my folding hunting chair and cushion, and made the long half-mile drive to the area where I would be hunting. I don’t like to drive near a place I’m hunting and in this case; I couldn’t without jamming my truck. The back of the large field I’d be hunting in, next to a grove of trees, was standing in a couple of inches of water from the recent rains. I parked at the front door, put on my muck boots, and quietly walked back to my hunting ground.
On these late afternoon hog hunts, I like to get to the spot an hour early, you never know when the hogs might change their pattern and move in just before dark. I needed pork on this hunt and wanted to have all my bases covered. But the last hour of the day was spent watching wood ducks fall into a pond on the other side of the field. Ducks and geese always perch on the water to avoid predators, and the sky is often full of ducks heading to their roosting sites during the last fifteen minutes of daylight. I never knew why they wait so late to fly, but when they’re hunting, if you watch the sky during the last few minutes of the day, you’ll probably see ducks heading to their roosting ponds. I have often wondered why they don’t go to bed a little earlier; possibly to avoid being seen in daylight by a coyote, fox, or hawk?
The first thirty minutes of darkness were uneventful, if hearing the evening assembly call from a nearby pack of coyotes could be described as uneventful. There is something absolutely wild about the howls and barks of a pack of coyotes as they gather each night to go on their hunt for fresh meat. In this case, they were not alone in their search for food. Through the thermal scope and spotter, I had a commanding view of everything within several hundred meters and saw the pigs coming long before I could hear them splashing in the water and then the sucking sound of their feet coming out of the mud. I could see my target eater seeding in the lead as the probe made its way through a field of kelp and tall grass. The pigs would be partially hidden from view at times, but through the thermal scope, I was able to track them until they appeared near the corn feeder. The lead pig sensed that something was not right. Being upwind from my location, she couldn’t have smelled me. She dropped her backpack and headed straight for my location, her head in the air, testing the light breeze from her. Wild animals, especially older ones, have a sixth sense and this one knew something was wrong. She couldn’t see me, albeit only 45 yards away, but she could make out every hair on her through the viewfinder.
Soon he was packing the meat back to the truck. Thank goodness it was a cold night. Once home, I left the meat in the back of the truck to cool overnight. The next morning, I put my knife to work and cubed a whole ham which I turned into spicy meat using the 90 year old meat grinder that was a gift from my friend, the late Bob Hood.
The smoked wild pork chili turned out great. It always does, it’s hard to spoil quality lean meat with lots of hickory smoke and seasonings applied. I think I may have converted some of my friends to making smoked chili. There was only a little bit of chili left in my big cast-iron Dutch kettle when five hungry hunters pushed away from the table.
May this lifestyle last forever.